Reviewed by John Hauer and Jess Pedersen // Photos by Shawn Spomer and Lear Miller
It’s bold, it’s black and it looks bad ass.
When Giant converted the majority of their bikes to the 27.5-inch wheel last year, they also took the time to completely redesign the Trance. Fueled by the Enduro craze (and no-doubt their own squad of shredders), the rowdier than standard Trance Advanced SX 27.5 was born. Sporting 140mm of rear wheel travel, 160mm up front and a list of components that’s certainly race worthy, this one appears ready to rally. Sedona, Arizona served as the perfect place to try out the bike claimed to “climb like an XC racer and descend with confidence” during the 2014 Vital MTB Test Sessions.
Trance Advanced SX 27.5 Highlights
- Advanced-grade composite front triangle with ALUXX SL rear triangle
- 27.5-inch (650b) wheels
- 140mm (5.5-inches) of rear wheel travel
- Maestro suspension
- OverDrive 2 tapered headtube
- 66-degree head angle
- 72.5-degree seat tube angle
- 17.3-inch chainstays
- Press Fit bottom bracket shell with ISCG05 tabs
- 142mm rear spacing with 12mm thru-axle (or 135QR via interchangeable dropouts)
- Measured weight (size Large, no pedals): 28 pounds (12.70kg)
- $6,400 MSRP as tested
When you see the Trance Advanced SX 27.5 for the first time you can tell it was developed under some talented racers. The frame has everything you need and nothing you don’t. It’s lightweight, has good geometry, and best of all the finish is gloss on matte black.
Giant’s Trance 27.5 lineup includes two bikes with the “SX” designation, both of which utilize the same Trance frame but include a longer travel fork that alters the geometry. SX versions use a 160mm fork (versus 140mm), slackening the head angle to 66-degrees. The use of a FOX Talas fork allows you to quickly reduce the travel on the fly to 140mm if you want to transform the bike to normal Trance mode at 67-degrees.
New for 2014, the half carbon, half aluminum Trance Advanced frame features internal cable routing to keep things neat and tidy. Injection molded plugs are used to seal the void around the cables while simultaneously tensioning the cables to prevent rattling inside the frame. Giant’s 100mm travel Contact Switch-R dropper seatpost now comes internally routed, ridding the frame of more clutter.
Injected molded chainstay and downtube protectors help keep the investment in good shape. Additional frame features include a Press Fit bottom bracket, ISCG05 tabs (it’s about time!), post mounts for the rear disc brake, interchangeable dropouts, bottle mounts inside the front triangle, and approximately 1.25cm of mud clearance with the stock 2.35-inch Schwalbe tires. Giant also specs the bike with their unique “OverDrive 2” 1.5-inch to 1.25-inch steerer tube and stem standard which is said to further increase front end stiffness.
In the suspension department, Giant uses the dual-link Maestro suspension design found on many of their bikes complemented by a FOX Float X shock. The system creates a single floating pivot point claimed to perform consistently under pedaling power and remain fully active while braking. Trance frames have a forged upper link with integrated cartridge bearings intended to increase small bump sensitivity when compared to the bushing alternative. The rear shock is very accessible, but does require a small allen key to adjust the rebound dial. Other than that small inconvenience, the frame looks to be a true ripper on and off the racetrack.
The Trance Advanced SX 27.5 slots in at $6,400 while the full aluminum Trance SX 27.5 will run you $4,050. Custom builds can be had too, with the frame and shock kit running $3,150 and $1,575 for the Advanced carbon and aluminum versions, respectively.
On The Trail
While Sedona is known for its red rock, we rallied the Trance SX on a number of trails with varied terrain. For those familiar with the area, trails included Slim Shady, Made in the Shade, Hi-Line, Templeton, Old Post, Carol Canyon, Ridge, Mystic and Brewer. All said and done, this bike saw everything from steep, techy rock sections to wide open descents and lung-busting climbs, all at a serious pace.
Hopping on the bike for the first time, our size Large felt quite big compared to others. The effective top tube length is pretty long at 625mm, and we’re guessing the reach measurement is too. We’d verify this with a number, but Giant doesn’t publish the now standard reach/stack measurements for some unknown reason. Given the perceived length of the bike, we’d likely swap the stock 70mm stem to a 50mm while also replacing Giant’s rather odd feeling 730mm handlebars to something in the 750mm+ range. For an Enduro race rig, the stock cockpit spec just isn’t up to par for those seeking the best balance and a confident attack position.
Just looking at the specs, the geometry is close to spot on for a 27.5 Enduro bike that can handle rough terrain but still feel efficient when sprinting or in the saddle climbing. The 66-degree head angle lets you get away with a lot. The 17.3-inch chainstay length isn’t too short but not too long either giving the bike a nice balance between stability and responsiveness. While it also isn’t published, the bottom bracket height wasn’t too low, preventing rock strikes while pedaling.
Even though we were slightly stretched out over the bike with the stock cockpit, we did enjoy it on the technical descents. It was predictable, had good balance front to back, and the overall stability inspired us to open it up a bit. It’s also light and very lively feeling, making it easy to pop around and pick up over obstacles in the trail to maintain your momentum. It didn't plow through the chunder as well as some other bikes in its class, but it definitely made up for it with its agility. It was quick and responsive, always ready for our next command. For how light the frame and overall bike is we never noticed any issues with stiffness. The bike works well when pointed down the hill. It’s also extremely fun to ride.
Just as we found when we first tested the 2014 FOX 34 Talas CTD fork late last year, it proved to be a capable performer on the trail. The updated spring curve and progression changes make it much more suited to aggressive riding, and improvements to the Talas travel adjust system reduce friction within the fork. Front end stiffness was not a concern, especially when aided by the tapered 1.5 to 1.25-inch steerer tube. We didn’t feel the need to use the Talas adjustment since we never climbed anything painfully steep and the bike tracked well regardless.
Out back, the rear FOX Float X sock was phenomenal the entire ride. It worked especially well on the Trance SX, and we found ourselves actually using all three settings of the CTD adjustment. When on fire roads we were in Climb mode, rocky climbs and rolling trails in Trail mode, and when trying to get wild we popped it into Descend. The bike and shock exhibited good compression support throughout the stroke, as well as a smooth transition into the ending stroke with spring curve progression. This helped provide the Trance SX with amazing traction over every type of terrain. The suspension was very compliant over small bumps and handled large square-edge hits decent enough for an efficient trail bike. The chatter at high speeds could be better, but was manageable and stable. The bike handled g-outs and drops fairly well too. Things felt good when leaving the ground off jumps, and the suspension offered a firm and responsive platform ready for preload and pop. All told, the Trance SX has a good all around suspension design that functions really well for a do-it-all trail bike.
According to John, perhaps the only ride characteristic needing improvement is rear braking traction. This feeling may have resulted because of his slightly more forward position on the bike due to cockpit restrictions, but he also felt that under rear braking the bike sat up in its suspension, putting less force on the ground through the rear tire. He came into a few sections hot and was almost unable to slow down in time while braking on steep surfaces. He noted that after changing the cockpit to his favored set up, he likely wouldn’t have any issues when charging even the most rough and technical terrain.
At 28-pounds the bike is competitive in the weight game but also feels light on the trail aided by the Maestro suspension which made for an extremely quick feeling ride. You never feel bogged down when riding the Trance SX and it seems to carry its speed well. It was snappy in and out of corners, up and over obstacles and while climbing.
Standing and sprinting, the bike feels like it puts power to the ground very efficiently even when in the rear shock’s Descend/Open setting. Switch the shock to the Trail or Climb setting and the bike might as well be an XC bike. We were really impressed by how quickly the bike accelerated and could get up to speed from a near dead stop. There’s very little loss of power due to bob or other suspension inefficiencies when out of the saddle.
Seated climbing also presented no issues. Body position was just about right, making it very comfortable to climb. In combination with the suspension it climbed very well regardless of the rear shock’s setting. Traction was readily available on techy climbs and we didn't experience any crank spiking, allowing us to keep a smooth pedal stroke at all times.
The Trance Advanced SX 27.5 build combines several proven components and a handful of Giant’s own creations, including the dropper post, cockpit and wheels.
The house brand Contact Switch-R dropper post works well, but it only has 100mm of adjustment. To get our saddle high enough for climbing we felt as if it didn’t get low enough when descending, which meant us getting knocked in the behind far more often than we would like. The dropper cable also comes out of the remote at an unsightly 90-degree angle to the bar, but this can be remedied with a zip tie or angled brake fitting.
As stated before we were not fans of the bar/stem combo. Swapping them isn’t terribly hard to do, provided you can find a stem you like made to fit the OverDrive 2 standard. At this time you’re limited to Giant, FSA, PRO and Ritchie stems.
The Giant P-TRX1 27.5 wheels felt stiff enough, provided a sufficiently wide profile and didn’t go out of true. The engagement of the hubs was on par as well.
Schwalbe’s new 2.35 Hans Dampf Evo front and Razor Rock Evo rear tire had plenty of traction and a good balance of rolling speed, but we did have a high number of flats despite being setup tubeless. After blowing both the front and back out on the first ride and installing tubes, we continued to flat despite running relatively high pressures. The terrain in Sedona is pretty rocky, so a better casing would be preferred.
We were impressed by the Avid Elixir 9 Trail brakes that seemed to have just as much power and modulation as the more expensive X0 Trail brakes we’ve ridden on other test bikes. The lever feel is good and it was easy to adjust the reach without any tools.
As always, SRAM’s X01 drivetrain complemented the bike well. It’s light, drag-free, extremely silent on the trail, shifts wells,and keeps the cockpit tidy. We did experience some shifting issues early on, but this was due to the routing of the rear derailleur cable. The cable kept getting pulled away from the rear derailleur up into the frame during large compressions. We resolved the issue by pulling more slack beneath the bottom bracket and adding some tape around the cable to keep it in place.
Long Term Durability
Looking the Trance Advanced SX over, we feel it will have no problem with long-term durability. The only components we question are Giant’s house brand products - specifically the wheels and the dropper post - because we haven’t had sufficient time to evaluate them. With routine maintenance the bike should be good to go for the long haul. Giant offers a generous lifetime warranty on the frame as well as a free 60-day repair labor period to work out any bugs early on.
What's The Bottom Line?
After riding the Giant Trance Advanced SX 27.5, it’s clear the company has some fast and fit racers that played a big roll in developing the bike. It caters to their strengths and provides a ton of confidence when the trail gets rough. Luckily these same characteristics favor everyone, and anybody who throws a leg over the Trance SX is going to have a good time. It suits a wide range of riders and performs well on an even wider range of trails. Those that want an efficient bike will be pleased, as will those that want one that can be ridden hard. Overall Giant and their athletes did a good job constructing a frame that is built to do everything well, and the component spec (minus the cockpit) follows suit. We have no qualms about recommending the Trance SX to anybody looking for a do it all trail bike or Enduro race rig.
For more details, visit www.giant-bicycles.com.
About The Reviewers
John Hauer - In 13 years of riding, John has done it all and done it well. Downhill, 4X, Enduro, XC, cyclocross... you name it. He spent 7 years as the head test rider for a major suspension company, averages 15-20 hours of saddle time per week, and is extremely picky when it comes to a bike's performance. And yeah, he freakin’ loves Strava.
Jess Pedersen - Jess is one of those guys that can hop on a bike after a snowy winter and instantly kill it. He's deceptively quick, smooth, and always has good style. He's also known to tinker with bikes 'til they're perfect, creating custom additions and fixes along the way. Maybe it's that engineering background...